“Through focused and constant efforts, we organized to promote the creation of a modern Jail Oversight Board, saw an entirely new County Council take office, and finally returned our jail to full county control and public oversight. We welcomed a new and forward-thinking warden and her staff who immediately implemented many of the changes we demanded.”
So reads a statement from the Delaware County Coalition for Prison Reform. The DCCPR and their fellow travelers, the County Council (especially Council Member Madden), the Inquirer, and wokesters everywhere are proud they had their way and took control of the Delaware County Prison. Now that they have that control, I have a few questions.
Do any of you take responsibility for the death of Mustafa Jackson? In case you don’t know the details, here they are: Mr. Mustafa Jackson, a 25-year-old African American who was also a paraplegic, was found dead in his cell. He was laying face-down in an adult diaper with new and used catheters laying around. His autopsy says he died of urosepsis, as Todd Shepherd wrote earlier this week. Medical authorities believe the condition is extremely painful, his death must have been excruciating, and only Mustafa and God know how long it took him to die. I might ask if one of the “implemented changes” you demanded was a return to medieval conditions. Perhaps we should just chain prisoners to the wall.
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I have another question. In December of 2022, two African American correctional officers appeared before Delaware County Council. Are the opinions of these two men to be respected?
“We are… in fear of our safety on this job,” said Albert Johnson about the conditions at George W. Hill Correctional Facility, as quoted in the Daily Times. “As of yesterday, two inmates stabbed. There have been more deaths in this prison since the county has come on. We are fearful for our lives… We get feces, we get urine thrown on us on a daily basis.”
Do your “implemented changes” make you proud as you sit around at your meetings patting each other on the back? They are killing and traumatizing those incarcerated and those working at the prison.
Mr. Jackson’s autopsy opens serious questions about his medical care, or lack thereof. Unfortunately, the county is unwilling to share with the public his medical records.
I might ask if one of the “implemented changes” you demanded was a return to medieval conditions. Perhaps we should just chain prisoners to the wall.
One more question: Does the DCCPR have any concerns about the leadership of Warden Williams who you have called “forward-thinking”? County Council, you and others (including the Inquirer) have had nothing but glowing comments about the new warden. Had any of you thought to do a simple Google search, you might have stopped to think about your fawning over her.
At her previous job in Allegheny County, Williams served as the chief deputy warden of health care services, despite having no training in medicine. A report from PublicSource quoted former medical employees from that jail questioning why their decisions should be overridden by someone with less knowledge and experience. It’s a question the County Council should be asking, too: Who was in charge of the medical protocols at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility, and why did those protocols fail so disastrously for Mustafa Jackson?
This is far from the only problem of this magnitude: in first ten months of government management, the prison witnessed three suicides — a tally not seen in any single year dating back at least to 2015. Also in that first year of government management, the jail accidentally released the wrong inmate, and a terrible homicide was recorded in which one inmate strangled his cellmate.
And, for a bit of icing on the cake, consider this: In 2019, the County spent approximately $76 per day to house a prisoner. Today, it is approximately $115 per day, and that number is climbing fast.
I don’t expect any mea culpas from any of the actors that have brought this mess to us. Nor should I, as they are our betters, went to the best schools, live in the best neighborhoods, and clearly know more than all the rest of us.
Wally Nunn is the former Chairman of Delaware County Council and a former member of the Delaware County Jail Oversight.